Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Government says increased demand for electricity coupled with constrained imported power generation have been the major contributing factors to the continuous power cuts being experienced throughout the country.
Of late the country has been hit by rolling blackouts, where consumers including industry have been spending many hours without power thereby affecting production and business operations in the wake of short working hours inspired by Covid-19 lockdown.
Energy and Power Development Minister Soda Zhemu told Sunday News in an interview that there has been a seasonal increase in demand for electricity coupled with subdued imports from South Africa that is also facing power generation challenges.
“Demand normally rises in winter and also the opening up of the economy especially after the second wave of Covid-19 has also resulted in increased demand for electricity. Recently, we have had challenges of imports coming from South Africa.
“They are also having constrained power generation and they are even unable to meet their own requirements to the extent that whatever they are supplying to us is not as much as they had been doing previously before winter and that has been a challenge,” said Minister Zhemu.
He, however, said the country has been making encouraging strides to increase internal power generation.
“There are developments happening at the Hwange Power Station. We are expanding by an addition of two more units. And on completion we will be expecting around 600 MW,” he said.
Minister Zhemu said the Government has also put together funds to rehabilitate existing units 1 to 6 at the Hwange Power Station. He said once the rehabilitation and expansion at Hwange were finished, the issue of power cuts would be a thing of the past.
The minister said the commissioning of 200 transformers and 117 vehicles procured by Zesa Holdings by President Mnangagwa on Thursday, will improve the reaction time for engineers and technicians when they are attending to faults.
“You see at times we cannot even tell whether people say there is no electricity. Is it about inability of our technicians to attend to minor faults or there will be a constrained power generation resulting in power curtailment. We think now with the vehicles, attendance to faults must be expedited and access to electricity must improve,” said Minister Zhemu.
He said by way of effecting some new connections, the transformers will assist in fixing the backbone infrastructure which has been delayed being fixed and all this speaks to improved service delivery.
On Thursday, President Mnangagwa directed the Ministry of Energy and Power Development to come up with measures to end load shedding within the next two years, riding on the several interventions and support extended to the power utility by the Government, particularly the Hwange Power Station Expanded Project launched two years ago. He said Zesa Holdings should adopt the use of modern technology to curb vandalism which has been a headache for the power utility.
While power supply had improved last year from the major crisis of 2019, frequent breakdowns at Hwange have caused repeated outages. The Hwange thermal power plant is made up of six units which were commissioned in phases between 1983 and 1987, with capacity to generate 920MW (four units of 120MW each and two units generating 220MW each).
Before the Kariba Power Station upgrade added 300MW to the 750MW hydro-electrical plant in March 2018, the Hwange Thermal Power Station was the country’s biggest. According to the Zimbabwe Power Company’s website update on Friday generation statistics showed that Munyati was at 0MW, Bulawayo 0MW, Harare 14MW, Kariba 1 023MW, Hwange 186MW and the total being 1 223MW while the country’s demand is estimated to be at least 1 400MW.